Raising poultry, like chickens in the backyard, is increasingly popular across the country. However, newcomers may not be aware of some risks for illness.

These risks are greatest for children under five years old and people with weakened immune systems.

Since spring is a common time to purchase birds, the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) and the Minnesota Board of Animal Health (BAH) are recommending a few simple steps for staying healthy around live poultry.

• Be aware of the risks – Recent years have seen large nationwide outbreaks of salmonella infections linked to live poultry in small flocks. Over the past three years, 84 Minnesotans and 2,267 people nationwide have become ill with salmonella infections during these outbreaks. Although people love to cuddle baby poultry, this is a known way for people and poultry to share germs.

• Keep poultry in their place, not yours – Do not allow live poultry in your house or in areas where food or drinks are prepared, served or stored. Dedicate a pair of boots or shoes for use in the poultry areas. Do not wear these boots anywhere other than your poultry area and store the boots outside.

• Wash your hands – Wash your hands with soap and water after contact with poultry or their environment. Hand sanitizer can be used when soap and water are not readily available, but wash your hands with soap and water as soon as you can.

• Purchase poultry only from licensed dealers – Poultry dealers must be licensed annually by the Minnesota Board of Animal Health. Dealers are required to keep records, have a clean facility and get birds from a certified source. It is best to purchase poultry from a licensed dealer and keep receipts when you get your birds.

• Keep your birds healthy – Poultry should be housed in a secure area with intact fences, barriers or buildings. If animals become ill, separate them from the healthy animals and consult your veterinarian.

To learn more about healthy practices around poultry, please visit the MDH Web site at www.health.state.mn.us. One can also get information from your licensed dealer or by calling (651) 201-5414 or (651) 201-6826.

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